Become Happier By Giving and Sharing


“A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by not being shared is not big enough to make us happy.” – Thomas Merton (No Man Is an Island, 1955)

ETR is modeled on Ben Franklin’s goals of becoming healthier, wealthier, and wiser. We’ve added a fourth goal to Ben’s three — happiness — because happiness is what we people in the modern world seem to cherish most.

Friend and partner BB challenges me on this issue: “Why should happiness be the goal of life?” he asks. He prefers the classical choice: virtue.

In Ben Franklin’s time, the idea of a well-lived life must have included happiness. However, it wasn’t talked about as much. Perhaps it was considered an undignified objective — less useful than health, less tangible than wealth, and less admirable than wisdom.

Whatever the reason for happiness’s modest reputation in the past, it’s of paramount importance to modern-day philosophers — and particularly those who dominate television and radio. “Happiness is the cardinal goal in life,” they say. And who am I to disagree?

But if happiness is the natural goal of being human, the advice I see about achieving happiness is almost always completely contradictory to my experience.

“Pay more attention to yourself,” these gurus advise. “Nurture your inner child.”

At ETR, we believe in being happy but haven’t found that self-indulgence is the way to have it. Lavishing your time and attention on yourself feels good for a while, but the good feeling is not a very deep feeling and doesn’t last very long.


The secret to more substantial and more enduring happiness, we have discovered, is doing less for yourself and more for others. Happiness comes to you not when you are making yourself the center of your universe but when you forget yourself and look outside.

So, to help you get and stay happy this year, we are asking you to make a New Year’s resolution to spend less time thinking about your own happiness and more time trying to make other people happy.

Start with your immediate family. Your spouse and children, mother and father, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews were not brought into this world to listen to and/or solve your problems. That’s your job.

Resolve to spend less time complaining to them and more time listening to their complaints.

Do share your dreams and ambitions with them, but don’t talk too long. And be sure you give them the time and attention they need to share their dreams and ambitions with you.

Spend some time today thinking about what you can do to make them happy and then put those things down on your task list.

Make your friends happy too. Smile when you see them. Listen to their stories. Give them the advice they want and shut up when they don’t want any. Become the person they turn to when the chips are down. Learn to love their peccadilloes and encourage them to overcome their faults.

Above all, be loyal to them.

Be a reliable and steady resource for your business colleagues. Help them achieve their goals — not because you want their loyalty but simply because you care about them and want them to succeed.

And do something for someone you don’t know — a stranger you come upon, a foster child, or a sick or poor person who can benefit from your help. Spend time and money.

Make this outward focus a natural part of your daily life. Do it purposefully and deliberately — by beginning with a set of resolutions and then transferring them to your weekly and daily task lists — till it becomes second nature to you.

You will know when this happens because you’ll be feeling happy most of the time.


* Think “What more can I give?” as opposed to “What more can I get?”

* Focus on opportunities, not problems.

* Listen first, talk later.

* Criticize only when you can do so lovingly.

* Resist the temptation to gossip.

* Work to do good first, to make profits second.

* Be loyal.

* Be grateful.

* Complain about nothing.

* Be kind to those you love and kind, too, to those you don’t.

Finally, spend time every now and then thinking about how you want to be remembered. Imagine the obituary that would be written now and compare it to the one you’d like to see written. Fill in the blanks with good actions.

Do all these things this year and 2003 will be a very rich one for you.